This winter I have only had sporadic opportunities to work with Eli. That meant that he got a bit feral under saddle and a bit back sore from weakened muscles. Add to this cold weather and the whole combination is ugly. (The bright spot is that he seems to understand how to behave on the longe line now. Yay?)
Last week was the first week in months that I was able to ride Eli multiple days in a row. SIX days in a row, to be specific. Which is not my normal approach but I thought that under the circumstances, I needed to take advantage of every day that I could ride, so I did. I think Eli appreciated this, because by Sunday and Monday, he seemed so relaxed in the cross-ties while I was tacking him up, which is a sign to me that his back was feeling stronger.
Admittedly, he did not start out this way. On Wednesday, it was a ride of negotiation, placation, and tip-toeing on eggshells. But we had no major upsets. And I could certainly understand where Eli was coming from. He was stiff and a little muscle sore from lack of regular work. I stayed in a two-point for a lot of this ride.
Thankfully, Thursday and Friday were warmer and Eli was a much happier horse. I even did a little cavaletti work on Friday, in expectation of jumping with my trainer on Saturday. So Friday … the high was 90F. No lie. It was in the 70s when I rode in the evening. I want that back.
Saturday, the weather did a 180 and the temperatures stayed in the 40s all day. The sudden cold was a bit of a shock for Eli, I think, as when I asked him to trot after walking for a few minutes, I felt like I was sitting in a ditch. I think this is perhaps what equestrians call “cold-backed”? So we cantered instead; Eli seemed much more comfortable in that gait. And after cantering for a while, we could trot normally again.
But we did school over fences some. And Eli seemed happy to be jumping again once he had nicely warmed up. My trainer kept it simple for us, considering we hadn’t jumped much for months, and we just worked through trotting in and cantering out of a line. Of course we had to have a few things tweaked to get to the center, but ultimately Eli stayed very simple and very responsive. He’s probably been bored out of his mind not jumping much so I think he was like, FINALLY. His ears gave me that impression, anyway.
Sunday’s weather was a bit nicer but still chilly, and I just took Eli for a light hack. His canter AND his trot both felt very good.
I had the good fortune of Presidents’ Day off (probably the last day off until June), so I was able to school over fences with my trainer again. Eli was SO attentive to what we were doing, and so relaxed at the same time. We added a few jumps, building on Saturday, and he stayed simple and quiet. So I was like maybe we should be done? But then I was like, actually can you film a little of this?
So of course Eli put on the sass a little, but then settled back down. And honestly, considering the weather — chilly, windy, bright — , it was almost out of character how placid he was. But I think a few extra layers on Eli helped him stay comfortable and warm for the ride. I feel more confident about him being comfortable over fences now that we have had some consistent rides and the weather should stop being so dreary soon enough. Maybe we’ll jump some courses next weekend? Maybe? Or maybe it will rain again. Good thing thoroughbreds seem to stay weirdly in shape and fit even without much work.
Eli has a well-deserved day off today, which is just as well because it will be 40F and raining all day. Wednesday looks better!